One hundred cigarette factory workers to lose jobs by the end of August

Essentra, Bede Industrial Estate
Essentra, Bede Industrial Estate

Almost 100 workers at a South Tyneside factory earmarked for closure are set to lose their jobs in less than two weeks.

Global cigarette filter supply firm Essentra last month announced plans to shut down its site on Bede Industrial Estate, Jarrow, by the end of the year – with manufacturing and production work being shifted to Hungary.

Hugh Ross

Hugh Ross

Now union representatives have been informed that 99 of the 220-strong workforce will be made redundant at the end of a 45-day consultation period on August 22 – subject to the factory closure being confirmed.

But bosses at the firm have said that they will utilise current employees on site for as long as possible up until the proposed closure – following anger over plans to bring in Hungarian labour to dismantle machinery on site and aid the production switch to the eastern European country.

Keir Howe, GMB Northern regional organiser, said: “We have been told by the company that they will be using current employees on site for the dismantling of any machinery.

“They say they will be utilising the employees on site for as much work as they can up until the proposed site closure.”

While the shutdown is still to be agreed, the GMB union is working with its members and factory bosses to finalise settlement packages for staff.

Mrs Howe said: “Ninety-nine workers are due to leave on August 22. It is a very sad time given the history of the factory and how long it has been around.”

The company, which opened the factory in 1948, said the move followed a review of its global business practices.

Essentra says a decline in cigarette sales in Western Europe has led to many of its suppliers moving to Central and Eastern Europe – with the firm now set to follow suit.

The factory’s workforce was slashed by 233 back in 2009, due to a fall in cigarette consumption across western Europe and the United States.

Hugh Ross, managing director for Essentra Europe, said at the time the closure bid was announced: “Over the past 10 years, cigarette sales volume in Western Europe has declined by almost 30%, with the tobacco companies supplied by Essentra responding to this trend by relocating their own manufacturing footprint to Central and Eastern Europe. The possible closure of the Jarrow site is in no way a reflection on the quality or commitment of our employees.

“Rather, the proposed transfer of activities will help to underpin the company’s long-term position as the leading global independent supplier of filter products.”